When defense teams go on holiday, cybercriminals get into play — and make businesses pay (ransoms)!

In analyzing case data from its extended detection and response (XDR) platform and 24/7 security operations center (SOC), one cybersecurity firm is sounding the alarm on the increased vulnerability in businesses during the year-end vacation months.

The data showed a rise in the severity of threats during the months when employees tended to book their vacations. While the volume, nature, and intensity of cyber threats targeting organizations all vary over time, Barracuda’s own customer base data saw a spike in attacks to 1.4m in January 2022, when employees were finishing their New Year break or taking time off for Chinese New Year. After this, the number dipped by 71.4% before spiking again by 1.4m in June — followed by a gradual decline through July and August, when employees were returning from their summer vacations.

High risk attacks recorded during the vacation months included successful Microsoft 365 logins from countries such as Russia, Iran, China and Nigeria. Of these, 40% took place during the 90-day window between June and the end of September, which researchers believe correlates with the summer vacation period.

According to the firm’s Director of Solution Architects (APAC), Mark Lukie: “Cyberattackers (were) targeting companies and IT security teams when they (were) likely to be under-resourced. This could be on weekends, overnight, or during a holiday season, such as Christmas and New Year, Chinese New Year, as well as the summer vacation period, and other festive periods, like Diwali.”

Barracuda recommends that businesses enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) across all applications and systems and ensure that they have a robust security solution in place to provide email and endpoint protection and response, and a watertight 24/7 SOC to monitor, detect, and respond to these cyber threats.

“As we head towards another holiday period, it is imperative that businesses across APAC remain vigilant; and don’t forget to back up all important data and critical systems,” Lukie reminded readers.